The rock of Montmajour with trees, 1888

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Reed pen, pen and brush in gray and black ink, on laid paper, 49 x 61 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
    (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)
  • F 1447

‘But now I’ve been to Montmajour 50 times to see that view over the plain’, Van Gogh wrote around 13 July 1888. Van Gogh’s fascination with the view over the flat landscape from the rocky outcrop of Montmajour produced a magnificent series of pen drawings, including this work. The charm of the landscape was so great that Van Gogh did not even feel annoyed by the Mistral and the many mosquitoes: ‘If a view can make one forget such small displeasures, then it must have something’.

More information about "The rock of Montmajour with trees"

Saving canvas

In the summer of 1888 Van Gogh worked intensively on drawing. His avoidance of painting was prompted both by lack of money and the strong Mistral wind, which made his canvases shake on the easel. But there was another reason for Van Gogh’s sparing use of his painting materials: he wanted to have sufficient canvas and paint in stock when his friend Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) came to Arles.

Montmajour series

Van Gogh produced his first series of views from Montmajour, seven rapidly drawn works in pen and ink, in May 1888. His second series of five drawings, which includes this work, dates from July 1888 and is much more precise in execution. Two of these highly detailed and signed works, Rocks with trees: The rock of Montmajour with trees and La Crau seen from Montmajour form part of the Van Gogh Museum’s collection. Van Gogh regarded these two drawings as the most successful works from his oeuvre.

La Crau gezien vanaf Montmajour La Crau seen from Montmajour

Reed pen

In Arles Van Gogh produced many drawings ‘with a reed, cut like a goose quill’ [602/478]. Although the artist had already worked with reed pen in Etten, he considered the reeds there of lesser quality. In Arles his maturing artistic talent and vision helped him to attain superlative skills in the reed pen technique. A true virtuoso, he applied the ink in a variety of ways, from elegant lines and wiggles to planes of stippling.

Japanese Arles

In the countryside around Arles the artist recognised something of the mood that had so fascinated him in Japanese prints. In September 1888 he wrote to his sister Wil: ‘I always pretend to myself that I am in Japan here, and that I therefore need only keep my eyes open and need only paint what strikes me in my immediate surroundings’. Van Gogh also had Japan in his thoughts when he produced his drawings around Montmajour, for he wrote of these works: ‘It doesn’t look Japanese, and yet in reality it is the most Japanese work that I have ever produced’.

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